HP unveils latest AMD notebooks

Hewlett-Packard will ship two notebooks which feature Advanced Micro Devices' Mobile Athlon 64 processor, as well as a previously...

Hewlett-Packard will ship two notebooks which feature Advanced Micro Devices' Mobile Athlon 64 processor, as well as a previously unannounced version of its older Athlon XP-M processor, which uses some of the same technology found in the 64-bit chip.

The Compaq Presario r3000z and HP Pavilion vz5000z notebooks are available now through HP's website with the 64-bit Mobile Athlon 64 processor. But the base configuration of the r3000z comes with a chip branded as the Athlon XP-M 3000+, which has more in common with the Mobile Athlon 64 than it does with the Athlon XP-M chips.

AMD's eighth-generation processors - the Athlon 64, the Mobile Athlon 64 and the Opteron for servers - were notable for their ability to run both 64-bit and 32-bit applications based on the widely used x86 instruction set.

But the eighth generation also included architectural improvements, such as the use of Hypertransport point-to-point bus technology and an integrated memory controller.

The Athlon XP-M 3000+ offered with the r3000z notebook includes Hypertransport and the integrated memory controller, but comes with only 256Kbytes of Level 2 cache, said Jo Albers, an AMD spokeswoman.

This compares with 1Mbyte of L2 cache on the Mobile Athlon 64 or 512Kbytes of cache on the other Athlon XP-M chips.

The are few applications available today that can take advantage of the 64-bit capabilities of the Mobile Athlon 64. Some will run faster on a processor with Hypertransport and an integrated memory controller, as compared to AMD's older technology, but the reduced cache size will impede performance in some cases.

This particular Athlon XP-M processor was manufactured at HP's request, although other PC makers are now expected to evaluate the chip, Albers said.

AMD probably disabled the 64-bit capability of its Mobile Athlon 64 chips to produce the part for HP, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst with Mercury Research. Chip makers frequently do this to offer a lower-priced chip that PC makers can use in lower-end systems.

Intel's Celeron chip, for example, is a scaled-down version of its Pentium 4, and AMD's Duron is a slimmed-down version of the Athlon XP, McCarron said.

If HP wanted to introduce Athlon 64 notebooks along with a less expensive alternative from AMD, it would need to use different motherboards. That is because the Mobile Athlon 64 and the lower-priced Athlon XP-M use different bus interfaces, McCarron said.

By disabling the 64-bit features and a portion of the cache on the Athlon 64, AMD can charge less for the chip and allow HP to use the same motherboards for all of its AMD notebooks, he said.

AMD at some point will probably introduce a desktop version of the Athlon XP-M 3000 it developed for HP, but to do so now would cannibalise the seventh-generation desktop Athlon XP chip, which is one of AMD's most popular products, McCarron said.

AMD plans to introduce a mobile core it calls "Dublin" in the second half of this year. It will have many of the same architectural features as the Athlon XP-M 3000 developed for HP but will not use the same core, Albers said.

Dublin will feature the same amount of cache as HP's Athlon XP-M as well as the integrated memory controller and Hypertransport links.

A base configuration of HP's Presario r3000z is available from its website with the new chip, 256Mbytes of DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 40Gbyte hard drive, a DVD-Rom drive, a 15in display, and a GeForce4 420 Go graphics card from Nvidia with 32Mbytes of video memory for $949 after a $100 mail-in rebate.

The Pavilion zv5000z will be available in April with the Athlon XP-M 3000+ chip for $949. A base configuration with the Athlon 64 3000+ processor costs $1,049 after a $100 mail-in rebate, including 256Mbytes of DDR SDRAM, a 40Gbyte hard drive, a CD-Rom drive, a 15in display, and a GeForce4 440 Go graphics card from Nvidia with 64Mbytes of video memory.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

Read more on Mobile hardware